Greetings everyone! Welcome back!
This week I would like to start off with a big thank you to everyone who read, shared, or commented on my previous article. The first goal was for everyone reading to learn facts about a community member that you maybe didn’t know prior. The second goal was for everyone to experience good feelings while reading the article. After reading everyone’s feedback, I believe those two goals were met. I can only hope to keep that momentum going.
(This week’s guest Ketchup in his signature red tie!)
This week I wanted to include another member of our community who is not just someone who plays our games, but a top comentator in the scene. Ryan Neal, also known as PND Ketchup, is a long time NRS fan all the way from the UK. Ryan and his twin brother Jake Neal, or Mustard (who we also love and adore), can almost always be seen together working at tournaments. The energy they both give when commentating together is inspiring and entertainment at its finest.
Though both condiment twins are extremely talented, I would like to give each of them individual time to shine on who they are as themselves as well.
I first met Ryan at the ESL Mortal Kombat X Season 2 finals in January of 2016. His brother and him were doing vlog interviews for their YouTube and were kind enough to ask me about myself. I had told them I was new to all of this but had always been an MK fan since the klassics. When asking them about who they are I was told how they are big Sektor and Cyrax fans. I didn’t realize what fantastic friends I had just made then, or did I? Either way, the two of them are absolute joys to be around and each interaction is pleasant regardless of talking tech or life. That’s enough backstory from me though. Let us dive into our ten questions with Ryan!
1. Ryan! You know I’ve looked forward to this so thank you for taking the time to do a First to Ten with me! The first question I would just like to answer some basics in one. Who are you, what are your handles, where are you from?
Thanks for having me!
My name is Ryan Neal. I’m known in the competitive gaming world as PND Ketchup and I come from the United Kingdom.
2. Now that we’ve established the basics. What got you into gaming? Specifically, what got you into the competitive NRS scene?
I owe my entire passion that I have for gaming to Mortal Kombat. The franchise started it all for Mustard and myself back in our younger days. Our first ever MK game was Mortal Kombat 3 on Snes and it stayed with us forever, not even 5 minutes in. We knew it was going to be something special.
On a competitive side, we started playing Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 online at a decent level back in the Xbox Live arcade days. Didn’t really compete as such, but played every day for a couple of years. Once Mortal Kombat 9 came out however, we both went in very very hard and played non stop. Got involved in UK tournaments after some promotional events from Warner Brothers and the rest is history.
3. When did you start commentating and what period did you decide you enjoyed this more than just being a competitive player?
The commentary side of things came into play before MKX came out. We were approached to work with the Pro League for season 1 but obviously were unaware of any future plans after that. We’ve always been a lot more career minded over competitive minded, as working in the games industry was a dream of ours since childhood. The choice to commentate over compete was an easy one.
This was made a lot easier to get into due to our content creation background as well. Streaming and making content for youtube was a huge part of us being naturally comfortable talking over gameplay once the pro league began.
Once the Pro League was in full swing, I think we both just realized that we’d truly found our niche in commentary. It’s something we happily do as a fulltime career now.
4. I know you commentate games other than MK and Injustice. As a Quake fan I’ve been watching your commentary when I can for the different broadcasts such as Quake Con and Dreamhack Denver. What do you love most about commentating for Quake and what other games do you commentate as well?
I’ve had a deep love for ID games for a very very long time. I’d just missed the prime of Quake competitive as a kid because I didn’t actually have a PC. My first Quake was on the N64 and my love of ID originated from Doom 64. I would always enjoy watching Quakecon and seeing players destroy the game in a way I never thought imaginable, the skill displayed between the two players was impossible to not notice straight away. I’d put hundreds of hours into Doom (2016)’s Multiplayer and got heavily involved in the PC community tournaments that community clans would host. Once Quake Champions was announced at E3, I knew it was finally my chance to learn Quake properly and get involved any way I could. The experience has been unforgettable and the ID community across the board is passionate, old school, respectful and very welcoming to new blood. We were terrified to enter the fray as we had big shoes to fill, but the feedback so far has been super positive. We just hope to keep moving forward!
The reason I love Quake is simple. Pure 1v1 and a fast pace. Not unlike Fighting Games in any way. The games lend a lot of basic 1v1 fundamentals to one another actually. There is also the massive grass roots feel that is the bread and butter of what made Quake such a landmark title in the world of competitive gaming to begin with. Another similarity that it shares with the world of Fighting Games. Community is everything.
(K&M looking sleek in their red and golden suits commentating for Quake Champions)
5. Normally you are commentating with your brother, Jake. I know you were by yourself with another commentator for Dreamhack. How often do you commentate without Jake? Does it affect the way you commentate when you both aren’t together?
Dreamhack Denver was certainly a new experience. I’d spent so long commentating with JUST Mustard specifically, that I feel it was almost a necessity that I had all of this experience refreshing my experience working with individual people again. It’s important as a commentator to make sure you have your own style, and that you’re able to work with whoever is with you at the time. being flexible for a show is vital and just makes everybody’s life a lot easier.
That said, I did thoroughly enjoy it. I’ve fanboyed over Zoot for a while before Quake Champions even got announced, so it’s kind of surreal to have worked with him so many times at this stage. Jehar and Makaveli are always class acts as well and are very easy to work with. Their experience and knowledge of the scene is legendary.
6. What has been one of your favorite moments in NRS game history while commentating? Please explain as much as possible for everyone tuning in!
During the Pro League days, Madzin and Sakron had some ridiculous matches. I think some of our absolute hypest moments have historically come from when those guys clash heads. It was a combination between how slow Sakron was prepared to play vs how explosive and off the wire Madzin would approach the game with Blood God.
That said, I feel like some of my fondest memories came from the ESL Season 3 finals. It truly was a collection of the world’s greatest players in one place. It was insane match one after the other. A blast from start to finish.
7. When you aren’t commentating what is everyday life like for you? What is work like?
Work is a blast. Although our primary role is to work broadcasts/shows when they’re taking place, on a 9/5 basis we’re in the ESL UK studio working behind the scenes. I make a lot of content and videos due to my background in video making on a personal level. We’ve just been insanely busy during the second half of this year because it’s genuinely been an event almost every weekend for 6 months. Insanity!
8. Back to Mortal Kombat talk, why Sektor? What do you love most about him? Have you ever dressed up as him?
I just remember as a kid finding him very easy to pick up and play. Visually he was the coolest looking character and the rockets from the chest took to my liking instantly.
His special moves were all forward forward with the exception of the homing missile (that took me over a year to discover admittedly), so naturally I thought I was godlike because I could do all the moves without question. Even though in hindsight, I was terrible.
In the spirit of halloween coming up, yes, I have 100% dressed up as Sektor on multiple occasions for conventions. Both the MK3 version and the MK9 Human Variant. We actually used to make a lot of costumes for cons back in the day. Was a lot of fun and I still miss not having time to do it anymore. Before I’m an esports commentator, I’m still a massive dork. That will never change.
(Ryan and his brother Jake as Sektor and Cyrax. Photo by Event Horizon Photography)
9. Now we all know you are very busy person! But are there any games coming out in the future you are looking forward to?
When working with games as much as I do, it’s important to make sure you’re not burning out or taking them too seriously all the time. Playing games casually is very very important.
Right now when it isn’t Injustice or Quake, it’s Destiny 2 where I’m just switching my brain off and grinding, whilst chatting to friends online. I enjoy classic games as well and have been getting muchos playtime out of my snes mini. Taking time to yourself and zoning out with something easy has been crucial with the busy workflow I have as of late.
10. Before we wrap up, I would like to thank you for your time answering these questions. I hope you had as much fun telling these bits as everyone will have reading your responses to them.
As your final question, I would like this to be for the fans hoping to catch you at an event. What other events are you going to (NRS related or not) in the next 6 months?
With Injustice finishing up in a couple of weeks along with the Tekken World Tour, our workload is looking kind of light going into the end of this year. Dreamhack Winter is around the Corner for Quake Champions, although the commentary lineup for that event is not confirmed just yet of course.
The year is set to end soon for Mustard and myself, and what a wild ride it’s been. This has easily been the most hectic year we have ever faced in our lives, and I can’t believe I’m even saying that over how insane last year was before it. Life is full of surprises and we are forever grateful to have this opportunity to do what we truly love for a living.
Thank you for having me!
(Joshua Gray, myself, Ketchup, and Mustard at Combo Breaker this year)
Thank you for letting us have you Ryan!
This concludes this week’s #FirstToTen.
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed. I know this was a little delayed but it was worth it for Ketchup’s epic responses.
I appreciate you all.
As always, feel free to comment any feedback or comments you have. Next week’s interview will be with Florida’s own BeyondToxin. I hope you’ll all join me in hearing his tales from the FGC and how he came to be a part of it. Feel free also to comment any questions you may want to see him answer on Sunday.
Article published by Rose Romanova